Despite the gender neutral nature of motorsports, women have historically been underrepresented on the track.  Photo by Charlie Larkman on Unsplash.
Despite the gender neutral nature of motorsports, women have historically been underrepresented on the track. Photo by Charlie Larkman on Unsplash.

OPINION: The motorsports industry needs to address a lack of female opportunities

One of the beauties of motorsports is that men and women should be able to compete on equal ground. A study conducted by More-Than-Equal found that all the physical and psychological benchmarks required by male drivers are achievable by female drivers too. So, why is the car racing world still male dominated? It’s because the industry has been male-dominated for decades, and there aren’t many changes being made to welcome women.  

Racing leagues like NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One are predominantly male. Research by More-Than-Equal found that female fans are dissatisfied by the overall lack of inclusion in motorsports. The main contributor to this issue is Formula One, the highest class of international racing for single-seater cars under the International Federation of Automobiles. Being the premier form of racing, it should be leading the way in diversity and equity for all to see. 

Instead, Formula One has been without a female racer for decades. Before women can even get to premier levels, like Formula One, most of their careers are cut short. Womens’ careers end within 1-5 years, while men’s careers usually last more than 12 years, a Top Gear article explained. Arguably, the largest barrier for female drivers is a lack of opportunities, specifically a lack of female sponsorship. Racers need sponsors to fund and further their career, but many investors are reluctant to sponsor female drivers early on. 

What makes a sponsor not want to invest in a female racer? Women lack these sponsors mainly due to one thing, credibility. Essentially, there is a shortage of female competitors and winners in Formula One, as well as other leagues. This lack of money from sponsors puts young female drivers into a place where their careers can’t go anywhere. Females in Motorsport explains that some career-advancing difficulties include: no tailored training for girls early on, inadequate track time compared to their male counterparts and lack of female role models.

Motorsports isn’t just about the drivers though, there are many important jobs behind the scenes that don’t get enough attention. Jobs like engineering, strategizing and mechanics help run the motorsport world. There’s a small number of women who work in these often ignored jobs, and the fact they are hidden means many young girls don’t know the extent of the different jobs available in car racing. Lewis Hamilton of the Mercedes F1 team discussed how if there is even any women, they’re more in the background. 

“We need to bring them more to the forefront, so young girls that are watching know that it’s possible for them to be here,” Hamilton told Autosports in October of 2022. Hamilton describes how bringing women up when from behind the scenes can help inspire young girls and show them all the jobs in motorsport that they can work towards. 

Even with these barriers, some progress has been made in the last 5-10 years. This past year Formula One founded F1 Academy, which is a female-only single seater racing championship. Its purpose is to nurture the skills of promising female racers in order to help them to the next level (Formula One). This first season, 2023, was a test run and next season each of the 10 Formula One teams will be sponsoring their own female drivers to represent their team. Many are hoping that it will draw more interest from young girls and get them experienced with the sport. 

Women in motorsports believe that these new developments and opportunities, like F1 Academy, will garner more interest at a younger age and open up more doors for female drivers. But to make sure this happens, these changes need to continue to grow in order to level the playing field in car racing. Extreme E driver Catie Mannings described to Motorsport Network how closed out young girls are from motorsports, but also how growing opportunities can help. 

“As other championships introduced more females in the top level, it’s becoming a little bit more known that it is an option,” Mannings said.

About the Contributor
Scarlett Frisbie, Staffer
Scarlett Frisbie is a staffer for Manual RedEye. You can contact her at [email protected].
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